Meditation on the Holocene
Oil and gold leaf on aluminum panel,
Image: 36"h x 24"w, framed: 43.25"h x 31.25"w, Item No. 20677,
These two girls are from Myanmar, surrounded by two species of butterfly found in the region, the Blue Admiral and the Blue Pansy, and cherry blossoms.
Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.
Since a military coup in February 2021, extractive activities and war economies are destroying the natural environment and placing communities at further risk of displacement, violent persecution and food shortages. These effects of conflict are reducing local people’s capacity to adapt to climate change and threatening efforts to protect the environment.
In the 2021 Global Climate Risk Index, out of 183 countries Myanmar is ranked the second most vulnerable to extreme weather events. With more frequent heatwaves, floods, cyclones, droughts and rising sea levels that impact production, food security and land scarcity, climate change poses a severe threat to livelihoods and sustainable development. Myanmar is simultaneously rich in natural resources and home to some of the largest remaining areas of contiguous biodiverse-rich rainforests in Southeast Asia, crucial for global climate stabilization due to their absorption of carbon dioxide. For generations, indigenous communities have protected these forests using local ecological knowledge systems. However, these systems have been perpetually undermined by top-down conservation interventions, extractive activities and conflict dynamics.
The Holocene epoch began at the conclusion of the last ice age 11,700 years ago as the great glaciers that had previously covered the Earth began to retreat. In their wake, modern humans spread inexorably across the planet. Humans flowered during the Holocene but our expansion had geological consequences. The minerals we mined, the gases we released by burning fossil fuels and the radioactive material we have produced have begun to make fundamental changes to the Earth’s geology. As a result, many scientists believe the Holocene is now over and they have given the name Anthropocene as its replacement, a move that recognizes humans as planetary influencers for the first time. As to the date of this event, most point to the years that followed the second world war when countries across the globe embarked on a massive economic and industrial expansion that is known as the “great acceleration”. This triggered the Anthropocene, it is argued.